Numbers 11:1-3, 10-17; 1 Peter 5:1-11
Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
When you're in leadership it is tempting to think your job is to get the people to the Promised Land. But that's actually God's job. Your job is to bear their burdens while they're in the wilderness. Craig Barnes
He was a middle-aged man with a good career. However, he felt God calling him to become a pastor. He left his job and went to seminary. Then he became pastor at a church.
After several years at the church the stress of his job was overwhelming. That included the pressure of writing a sermon and preparing a bulletin every week. It included all the regular activities that are part of a church as well as the unexpected calls – hospital visits and funerals. On top of that is the struggle of leading the church in a culture that is rapidly changing. What it means to be and do church today is very different from what it was fifty years ago.
All of the pressure led this second-career pastor to the conclusion that he couldn’t take it anymore. He left the pastorate to return to his earlier, “less stressful” job. He was an air traffic controller! In case you haven’t heard before, being an air traffic controller is considered one of the highest stress jobs.
As Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, to Mount Sinai, and then through the wilderness, he experienced that same type of stress. The wilderness is a dangerous place. If you make a mistake out there it could mean life or death. When some of the Israelites started complaining it was even more overwhelming. I didn’t have Chris read the whole passage in Numbers 11. The verses I left out talk about the rabble, the riff-raff, a small group of trouble makers who complained because they didn’t like the manna that God miraculously provided.
They wanted steak, fresh strawberries, bread sticks from Olive Garden and French pastries for dessert, just like they used to have back in Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt so it’s unlikely that they ever had any of those foods, but that is what they wanted in the wilderness.
The pressure of leading the Israelites and dealing with all their complaints became so overwhelming for Moses that he cried out to God. “God, this isn’t fair. You created this people and led us out of Egypt. But why did you give me the job of leading them? It’s too much. I can’t take it. I’ve had enough. Kill me if you want, but get me out of this mess.”
Notice how God responded. He told Moses to gather seventy elders. God put his Spirit on these men so that they can help Moses. Together they will help carry the burden of the people. They will share in the leadership of God’s people.
In the New Testament God uses the same concept to lead the church. Peter wrote this letter to Christians, to the church in various settings throughout the area we now call Turkey. They are people who are struggling to live faithfully in the culture that surrounds them. They live under the rule of Rome and Caesar, but they loyal to Jesus and to his kingdom.
In our passage Peter calls himself an elder. We know from the gospels that he was Jesus’ closest friend, the leader of the Apostles. He was the leader of the church. Notice that even though he calls himself an elder, he also calls the other people elders. Peter exhorts them to help him lead the church.
This morning we are ordaining and installing both elders and deacons. These are the officers of the church. They work with the pastor and with the staff, Treva and Mark, to lead this church into the future that God wants. Between our passage from Numbers and Peter’s letter I’d like to share with you four ideas about what it means to lead the church. There are at least four different ways that we carry out this task faithfully. I know that not everyone here is being ordained and installed. At some point in the future you may be elected as an elder or a deacon so might want to file these ideas for the time when you are an elder or a deacon. Others of you may never serve as elders or deacons, but I hope you’ll see that these ideas have something to say to all of us.
First, part of helping lead the church is bearing the burden. The burden was too much for Moses to carry by himself. There were six hundred thousand men, plus women and children. No one could lead that type of a group alone. God told Moses that these seventy elders will help “bear the burden of the people” (Numbers 11:17). The Hebrew word for “bearing” is “nasa.” It means to lift something or carry it. The word for “burden” is the word used to describe the load that a donkey or a camel might carry. The Hebrew word is “massa.” It’s fun to say – “nasa massa!” However, carrying the burden isn’t fun, especially by yourself.
Imagine a four hundred pound boulder up here. We need to move this boulder, but I doubt that anyone here would be able to pick it up. There might be a few people who might be able to tip it up and gradually roll it. However, if everyone here carried 3-4 pounds we could pick it up and move it wherever we wanted. When we share the burden the job becomes very manageable.
Part of being and elder and a deacon is helping to carry the burden of the church. Fifty years ago it was much easier to be the church. Back in the 1940s and 1950s any church could thrive. I haven’t looked at the statistics of Sharon church, but my guess would be that it was during those years that the membership of this church grew rapidly. All that a church needed to do was open its doors and develop some sort of program. People would come to your church. That does not work anymore. There are too many other options in our world. People don’t feel a need to be part of a church. Leading the church today is much more challenging, but when we do it together, when we all work together to bear the burden, the church can not only survive, but even thrive.
The second description of being and elder or a deacon comes from Peter, when calls the elders to “tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight” (1 Peter 5:2). The image shepherds and sheep is very common in the Bible. Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd. Psalm 100 – we are God’s sheep. Moses and David, the two great heroes of the Old Testament were shepherds. I like the way Sheila Walsh talks about Moses’ experience.
After Moses killed the Egyptian who was abusing a slave, he ran away and spent 40 years working with sheep. Forty years is a long time....By the way, doesn't it seem to be the perfect training ground for Moses? Forty years with dumb, stubborn sheep and then forty more with the children of Israel! I think I'd take the sheep.
The job of being a pastor, an elder or a deacon, is to care for the sheep. We are to be like shepherds. However, notice that we are not the chief shepherd. Jesus is the chief shepherd. He described himself as the Good Shepherd. It is his flock. He owns it. He leads it. Those of us who are pastors, elders or deacons lead the church under Jesus’ authority. As Peter said, we are to lead the church “as God would have you do it” (1 Peter 5:2). We are the assistant shepherds, or as I like to think of us – we are the sheep dogs who take our orders from the chief shepherd.
I hope no one is offended by being called a sheep dog. If you are, you need to pay attention to the next idea that we find in our passage from 1 Peter. In verses 1-4 Peter addresses the elders, the leaders of the church who were probably older men. In verse 5 he makes a comment for those who are younger, who haven’t yet reached that stage of being an elder. “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders.” But notice what he says next. “All of you must clothe yourselves with humility with one another.” Peter goes on to say, to everyone, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6a).
Humility is sometimes misunderstood and forgotten as healthy characteristic of a leader. Humility is not the opposite of confidence. It isn’t beating ourselves up because we are terrible people. Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves. It is thinking of ourselves less. Humility means that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It is recognizing that the church doesn’t depend on me and my abilities. Whenever I start to worry about the church or feel bad about my ability to lead the church, I try to remind myself that this church doesn’t depend on me. We all have our part but the future of the church is in God’s hands.
That leads to the fourth thought about leading the church, though this one is again a comment for all of us. We are called pray and trust in God. In verse 7 Peter invites us to “Cast all our anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” What are the fears that wake you up at night? What are the anxieties that keep you from enjoying life? The word anxiety comes from a root word that means to strangle or to choke. What is it in your life that chokes life and joy out of you? Peter invites us to put all of that onto God. God loves you and wants the best for you, so give your worries to God.
Peter goes on to say that “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). What an amazing promise. God puts us back together when we are broken. God gives us the strength and stability we need to become the people and the church God wants us to be. God promises to do that for us because he is a God of grace. As pastor, as elders and deacons, as members of this church or simply as children of God, we are invited to give all our worries to God and trust that God will lead us into the future he wants for us.
Those of you who are part of this church, whether you’ve been here your whole life or only four to five times, all of you want this church to become the place that God wants it to be, a place where we can worship, grow in our faith, be loved by God’s people and share that love with the world. Part of that will depend on the elders and deacons serving in a way that is faithful and obedient to God. That includes helping bear the burden of the church and the pastor, shepherding the members of this church, serving with humility and trusting in God, the God whose grace fills us with love and calls us to work.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
The Eucharist is the most ordinary and the most divine gesture imaginable. This is the truth of Jesus. So human, yet so divine; so familiar, yet so mysterious; so close, yet so revealing! Reaching Out Henri Nouwen
Look: Back / Around / Up / Out / Forward
When Max Lucado was a young man he was part of a group at his church that took communion to people who were in the hospital, or who couldn’t come to church for whatever reason. One time he and another server went into the room of an elderly gentleman who was asleep. They spoke his name, bumped his bed a little, and even tried shaking him. He never woke up.
They weren’t quite sure what to do but they didn’t want to leave without performing their duty. The other guy noticed that this man who was asleep had his mouth open. Why not? They prayed over the little wafer and stuck it in the man’s mouth. Nothing happened. They prayed over the grape juice and poured a little into his mouth. The old man never woke up! Listen to what Max said about this:
“He never woke up. Neither do many today. For some, communion is a sleepy hour in which wafers are eaten and juice is drunk and the soul never stirs. It wasn’t intended this way” (Max Lucado, And the Angels Were Silent, p149).
The worship committee has recommended, and session has approved, celebrating the Lord’s Supper eleven times this year. That is more than we have done communion in the past, so I want to take some time this morning to think about what this meal means, so that we don’t participate in this meal as if we are asleep. Why do we eat a little piece of bread and drink a little taste of grape juice? What is the meaning of this meal? In our passage from 1 Corinthians Paul gives us five different ways to think about this holy meal, five different meanings for the Lord’s Supper.
First, when we celebrate this meal we look back. In the Upper Room, when Jesus first shared this meal with his disciples, he gave them the bread and said “Do this in remembrance of me.” He said the same thing when he gave the cup. “Remember me.” Whenever we celebrate this meal we are to look back and remember what Jesus has done for us.
Memory is a wonderful thing. Yet in the Biblical world remembering is more than nostalgia and thinking about the past. To remember something was to think about the past in a way that it becomes a present reality. When the early Christians heard the call to remember they pictured themselves in the Upper Room with Jesus at the Last Supper. He washes their feet. They eat a meal together. Jesus prays for them. He takes bread and a cup and gives it to them. They are there. When these early Christians heard the call to remember they imagined themselves at the foot of the cross. Their Lord, their leader, was hanging there, suffering and dying. He was beaten beyond recognition. Yet he cried out, “Father, forgive them.” They are there. When they heard the call to remember they imagined themselves gathered with the disciples on that first Easter morning, broken-hearted at the death of their friend. Then Jesus showed up. He’s alive! They are there.
Part of the beauty and genius of African American spirituals is that they are intended to help us see ourselves as part of the Biblical story. When the slaves sang they saw themselves as Israelite slaves in Egypt. They imagined themselves crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. One of my favorite spirituals is Were You There? “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they whipped him up a hill? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when he hung his head and died? Were you there when he rose up from the dead?” As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper look back at what Jesus has done for you. Remember the past in a way that it becomes a present reality in your life. Look back. You are there.
Second, look around. Look around at your relationships with other Christians. This is actually the main emphasis in this passage. In verse 28 Paul says “Examine yourselves.” Then he says “Discern the body.” This isn’t an individual, inward navel-gazing. This means examine the relationships you have with others in the church. There were problems in the Corinthian church. There were different factions, so Paul challenged them to focus on repairing their relationships with each other. One of the names for this meal is communion. It is a meal that shows our union with each other, our unity.
Look around. Are there people in your life that you need to love and forgive? It wasn’t that long ago that there was a conflict here in this church. Are there relationships that still need healing? I love the image of the church as porcupines who come together on a cold night. They huddle together for warmth, but they poke each other. They hurt each other. Any time people live together, whether it is in a church or in a family, there is going to be conflict. Look around. What relationships in your life need to be restored?
Look back. Look around, and look up. Look up, to your relationship with God. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of the first time Jesus celebrated this meal in the Upper Room with his disciples. In First Corinthians Paul also tells the story. Each story is a little different, but one thing they have in common is that when Jesus takes the cup he says “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” A covenant is a relationship, a formal agreement between two parties. In Biblical times covenants were sealed with a sacrifice, with blood. The old covenant, between the Israelites and God, had many different sacrifices. But now, through Jesus’ death on the cross we have a new covenant. Through Jesus’ blood we have a relationship with God. Look up and focus on your relationship with God.
I grew up in a Presbyterian church. I knew the basic Christian story and had a decent understanding of Christian teachings and what was right and wrong. However, my faith came alive when I realized that God wanted a personal relationship with me. The center of Christianity, as I understand it, is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There is more to being a Christian than that and there are different ways of living out our faith, but at its core, Christianity involves a relationship with the God of the universe. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, let us look up, and reflect on our relationship with God. What do you need so that you can grow closer to God? What is God wanting in your relationship? Look up and grow closer to God.
Look back. Look around. Look up. Look out. Look outside the church, to those who do not know Jesus, to those who have never heard the good news. In verse 26 Paul says that whenever we “eat this bread and drink the cup, [we] proclaim the Lord’s death.” To be honest with you, I’ve never understand that statement. What is it about eating a little piece of bread and drinking a shot-glass full of grape juice that proclaims the good news of Jesus? How does the world hear the message of Christ when we eat this meal?
The Greek word for proclaim, “you proclaim the Lord’s death,” is messenger. We are God’s messengers. We are messengers of the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We are messengers of good news to a world that desperately needs good news. I’m not sure how that happens through this meal. Maybe when we gather to celebrate this meal the message of Christ is supposed to be proclaimed in the sermon. Maybe the act of coming to worship, committing our time that we could be spending doing any number of other things, gives a message to those around us. Maybe there is some other mysterious way it happens. However it happens, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we are proclaiming the message of Jesus’ death. We are to look out, outside the church and tell the world of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
This has to do with one of our favorite words as Presbyterians – evangelism! I know that many Christians are not comfortable with evangelism. Part of that is all the horrible examples we have seen. We need to do evangelism in a way that is consistent with our theology and with our personalities. But above all, we need to do evangelism. Part of being a faithful Christian is telling others about Jesus and inviting them to follow him. It is sharing your story of God’s love.
One of our friends in Colorado tells the story of a time he was working at Highlands Presbyterian Camp. It is a spectacular place set in the Rockies, about an hour northwest of Denver. Mark was leading their horse camp. His group stayed down in the Lodge. One morning he woke up early, before sunrise, and couldn’t get back to sleep. He went outside and saw something that confused him at first. There was a trail of lights moving on a hill across the valley. Then Mark remembered that at the top of that hill there was a cross. He realized that some of the counselors were leading the campers on an early morning hike, carrying flashlights, up to the cross to watch the sunrise. Mark said that he realized that is what camp is all about. That is what evangelism is all about – leading people to the cross where they can meet Jesus and receive God’s love.
We are called to proclaim the goodness of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We are called look out and tell others about God’s love.
Look back. Look around. Look up. Look out. Look forward. In verse 26 Paul tells us that when we celebrate this meal we proclaim the Lord’s death “until he comes.” This has to do with another favorite Presbyterian word – eschatology, the study of the end times. Sometimes it is called the Parousia or the rapture or the second coming of Christ. We believe that at some point Jesus will come back to earth. This meal reminds us of that time. When it happens we will be invited to the eschatological banquet, a messianic feast. The Lord’s Supper looks forward, with a sense of anticipation and hope for the future.
About eighteen years ago Tanya and I took our kids on a family mission trip to Ciudad Juarez. It’s one of the border cities of Mexico, right across from El Paso, Texas. We worked in a couple of churches in Juarez. One evening we went to dinner at the home of lady in one of the churches. Her pastor was there along with a couple of other people. As we talked I realized that the second coming of Christ was a significant part of their faith. I don’t deny the second coming, but it isn’t an important part of my faith. For most of us life is fairly good. We don’t need the second coming. In the developing world, or in the third world, the second coming is much more important because it gives them hope.
Here’s the thing – at some point life is likely to become difficult for all of us. That may be a personal crisis that you go through. It may be a global problem. When that happens, not if but when, the second coming of Jesus will be a source of great hope. No matter how bad things get in the present, our belief in the second coming brings us hope that the future will be better. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of that hope. It reminds us of the heavenly feast we will someday join. This meal reminds us that the future is in God’s hands. Therefore, we can look forward with hope.
Look back. Look around. Look up. Look out. Look forward – five ideas as we approach this table. Five ways to understand this meal. Five ways to live in the endless, undeserved and unlimited love of Jesus Christ.
Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
So, too, home for the three wise men and for us is not the manger where the light is gentle and God is a child. Peace is there, the peace that passes all understanding, but it is not to be ours yet for a while. We also must depart into our own country again, where peace is not found in escape from the battle but in the very heat of the battle. For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if we are to reach home at last. The Magnificent Defeat, Buechner p56
Hope Beyond Sorrow
Wednesday is Epiphany. It is the traditional day to celebrate the story of the Wise Men who followed the star and brought Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Epiphany is also the end of the 12 days of Christmas. In other words, by Wednesday Christmas will officially be over.
Of course, for most people, today is the last day of the holidays. Radio stations have already stopped playing Christmas music and tomorrow we get back to real life. Students will go back to school. Tomorrow is the official day we start our diets and exercise programs. This afternoon I’ll turn off my Christmas lights and start taking down our decorations.
Christmas decorations and Christmas music create an artificial world that helps us celebrate the holidays. We create images of what Christmas should be like. Manger scenes have a soft light shining on a baby and animals peacefully gazing at the new child. “The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.” “Silent night. Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright.” “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!”
It is a beautiful picture. Unfortunately, that image is not real. It is what we would like our world to be – peaceful and perfect. However, the world we live in is quite different. Just look at any news source and that becomes obvious. Our world is filled with darkness, injustice, war and violence. The Bible is aware of that reality. Let me read to you the story that follows immediately after the story of the Wise Men. “Read Matthew 2:13-18.”
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Of course this isn’t the most uplifting and inspiring word of the Lord. It is not one we read to bring us comfort and peace. This story reminds us that Jesus wasn’t born into the world as we would like it to be. He wasn’t born into a sugar-coated, perfect world. Jesus was born into the real world, the world we live in, is a world of pain and sorrow. I would suggest to you that Jesus’ coming into our world, the real world, is both a threat to our lives and a message that brings us hope. Let’s take a look.
Herod is usually called Herod the Great. In 47 B.C. Caesar appointed him as governor of what we now call Israel, as well as Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Syria. Seven years later he was appointed as king of that area, though still under the power of Caesar. He ruled this are until he died in 4 B.C. Herod was a great builder. He rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. He also built a number of other religious shrines, along with monuments and theaters.
What stands out most about Herod is that he was insanely suspicious. He didn’t trust anyone. If Herod thought that his power was threatened by someone, he would have that person killed. He actually murdered one of his wives and her mother, three of his sons, and countless other people. So, when Herod heard about a new king being born in Bethlehem he was threatened. He tried to get rid of this king, killing “all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under” (Matthew 2:16).
I would suggest that Herod’s reaction is an example of how all political forces react to Jesus. Jesus is the King of kings, the Prince of peace. He is a threat to any person or government that claims to be powerful. Throughout the centuries kings, governments and dictators have murdered God’s people, both Jews and Christians, in the name of advancing their own agenda and keeping their power. They seek to create peace by destroying anyone who threatens them. I have a sense that at least part of the conflict that we see in the USA between conservatives and liberals, is that both groups feel threatened. Neither group can claim to be fully in line with Christ and his teachings, so they point fingers at the other.
In the news this week there was a story about the government in Egypt taking away the rights of the media. They felt threatened by the journalists. The Taliban and the Afghanistan government fight with each other because each feels threatened. ISIS attacks everyone who disagrees with them. 15 years ago it was the government in Beijing being threatened so they shot peaceful protestors in Tiananmen Square. The same thing happened in Belfast, Bosnia, and Beirut. 2000 years ago it happened in Bethlehem. Every political power is threatened by the birth of Jesus, for he alone is the Lord and ruler of the universe.
The truth is, though, it isn’t only political powers that are threatened by the birth of Jesus. All of us are threatened. We aren’t going to kill babies like Herod did, but we do a good job of ignoring Jesus and keeping him at a nice safe distance. Jesus wants control of your life. He wants to be Lord of every detail of your life. That goes far beyond saying “I believe in Jesus” and coming to church once or twice a month. It is more than volunteering to teach Sunday school, sing in the choir or serve on a committee. Those are good, but Jesus wants everything. Are you willing to let Jesus be in charge of every aspect of your life? Are you willing to let Jesus be Lord of your money and determine how much you give to the church? Are you willing to give Jesus your calendar and say “cross off the activities you don’t want and add the activities you want me to do”? Are you willing to let Jesus be Lord of your business and your marriage? The food you eat? The TV shows you watch? It is easy to ignore Jesus and keep control for ourselves. Yet when we try to keep control we’re not much different than Herod.
The massacre of infants reminds us that Jesus is a threat to us because we don’t like to give up control. At the same time, this story brings great hope into our lives. This hope can be seen in at least two ways.
The first way is rather subtle. It has to do with the quote from Jeremiah; “A voice was heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). Matthew quoted this passage to describe the agony and sorrow that the people of Bethlehem experienced after Herod had the babies murdered.
The original setting of the quote from Jeremiah is chapter 31. Ramah is the place where Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was buried. It is near Bethlehem. Jeremiah was describing the Israelites as they were being taken into exile. They walked from the Promised Land toward Babylon and went right by Rachel’s tomb. Jeremiah described the agony of the exile as Rachel weeping for her children and grandchildren.
Matthew wrote primarily for Jewish Christians who would have known this passage in Jeremiah. They would have known the story of the exile. They would also have known that in this lament from Jeremiah there are words of hope. Let me read you a few verses from Jeremiah 31.
The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jeremiah 31:2-3).
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the grain the wine and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the heard; their life shall become like a watered garden and they shall never languish again (v12).
There is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to the own country (v17).
Jeremiah expressed the sorrow that the people of Bethlehem knew. He expressed the sorrow we have all known. His words also remind us of the great hope we have, hope promised to us by Jeremiah, and hope found in Jesus Christ – hope that goes beyond the sorrow of our lives.
There is a second way that this passage shows us hope. Herod tried to kill Jesus. God had other plans. He warned Joseph in a dream and Joseph escaped to Egypt, taking Mary and Jesus with him. In spite of Herod’s power and his plans, Jesus was not killed. The hope that you and I have is that God is stronger than the worst that the world can do to us. That is seen throughout the Bible, but it is seen most clearly in the resurrection.
She was a European countess who was known for her disbelief in God and her conviction that there was no life beyond death. Before her death she left specific instructions for how she was to be buried. Her tomb was to be sealed with a slab of granite. Blocks of stone would be placed around her tomb and the blocks of stone were to be fastened together with heavy iron clamps. Everything that could be done to seal the tomb was done. The inscription on the tomb said “This burial place, purchased to all eternity, must never be opened.” The countess wanted her tomb to serve as a mockery to anyone who believed in the resurrection.
However, a small birch tree had other plans. It’s roots found a way between the granite slabs and grew deep into the ground. Over the years it forced its way until the iron clamps popped loose and the granite lid was raised. Eventually the stone cover leaned up against the trunk of the tree and the epitaph is a joke. The message this woman hoped to give the world was silenced by the work of a determined tree, and a powerful God.
Friends, Jesus Christ is a threat to governments and to our lives, because he is the Lord, the ruler of the universe. Anytime we try to claim power for ourselves Jesus is a threat to us. Jesus is also the source of our hope and salvation. Herod tried to destroy him, but couldn’t. Thirty years later the Jewish leaders and Pilate tried to get rid of him. They killed him, but it wasn’t enough. Even death could not conquer him. The worst that the world can do to us it first did to Jesus. Yet in the resurrection we know that Jesus cannot, will not, be defeated. We have hope because God is stronger than the evil of our world and God loves each of us.